Now that the "Roar Before The 24" is past, it's gotten relatively quiet at Daytona International Speedway - at least, insofar as race-car testing is concerned ... plenty of folks are spit-shining the place for Speed Weeks.
In the meantime, a bunch of NASCAR stars are slated to hang out at DIS on Jan. 16 and 17 during a relatively muted preseason "Thunder Fan Fest" which won't make nearly as much noise as did The Roar, unfortunately.
YOU CAN'T DANCE . . .
. . . If you don't have the shoes.
Except for drivers' new shoes and new Ford power, the Wayne Taylor Racing SunTrust No. 10 Dallara team didn't really make a whole lot of noise at the just-finished Roar Before.
Fulltime 2009 drivers Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle were joined by their Rolex 24 driving teammates, Wayne Taylor and Pedro Lamy to post only the 12th-fastest time overall during the eight-session, three-day test.
However, one needs to guard against being too easily misled by the team's apparent slack performance when one alternately realizes the SunTrust team rarely was clocked outside of the top-five fastest Daytona Prototypes. For sure, the team hardly should be counted out for The Big One.
Having won the 1996 and 2005 Rolex 24s, Taylor better than most understands what it's like to get caught in the crossfire of which racing mode one should practice for the endurance classic: "go fast" or "endure."
"Of course you want to go fast, have your sponsor, number and such at the top," a tired post-test Taylor said, "but the most important time for that to occur is at the end of the Rolex 24, not at the test before it. We paid a lot of attention to what we needed to get right for the Rolex 24; not being fastest at the test. I'd really rather win the Rolex 24, you know."
As for the otherwise indescribable white-on-blue driving shoes which turned heads from 110-meters or more, "Max picked them out," Taylor said.
"Italians as a whole are among those possessing the best fashion sense, but Max somehow managed to escape getting that gene."
But Massimiliano did get a "go-fast" gene.
1) Playing spoiler, Darren Law waited until nearly the last-minute Monday before burning the Roar's top lap of 1:41.733, at an average speed of 125.977 mph.
Law, who has since 2004 paired with David Donohue in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche-Riley, will be joined for the Jan. 24-25 Rolex 24by Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia.
Though any engine anywhere, anytime can expect teething problems, this newest Porsche flat-six is one potent motor when everything is functioning.
2) Michael Valiante and his No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley waited for no man, quickly coming out of the box Saturday to capture that day's quickest lap of 1:41.760 (125.943 mph).
Valiante is teamed for 2009 with car-owner/driver John Pew. A.J. Allmendinger and Ian James join the pair for the Jan. 24-25 Rolex 24.
Along with a similar run from MSR's Oswaldo Negri in MSR's No. 60 Ford-Riley (in which the Brazilian regularly alternates with guitarist/singer/caricaturist/ writer/Madoff-don't-wannabe Mark Patterson), Team Shank has announced its clear intention of again nailing the Rolex 24 front row, which in 2008 solely belonged to MSR.
3) Christophe Bouchut was the quickest to emerge from Sunday's testing on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway Rolex 24 track.
Bouchut drove the No. 55 Edata Solutions/Supercar Life Racing LevelFive Motorsports BMW Riley to a 1:41.733 lap at average speed of 125.977 mph, good enough for the test's third-fastest speed.
In an early Rolex 24 sleeper alert, Bouchut shares Rolex 24 driving duties this year with LevelFive owner Scott Tucker and Ed Zabinski.
Bouchut won the 1995 Rolex 24 with Juergen Laessig, Giovanni Lavaggi, Marco Werner in a Kremer Porsche-K8 Spyder (essentially, a reinforced chop-top Porsche 962).
FOUR (or so) FAST GTs . . .
. . . and the art of controlling bodily functions.
Despite a broken heart that likely will be long in mending, SpeedSource's defending Rolex 24 GT-class winner Sylvain Tremblay somehow on Saturday immediately found a 3.56-mile groove and essentially announced he and regular co-driver Nick Ham (likewise possessing a Rolex Daytona watch, er, "timepiece") are intent on this year claiming a driving championship, denied in 2008 to the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 team.
The Mazda's first-day time stood throughout the test, too, until Farnbacher and TRG started trading lightning-fast jabs - also in the test's final 30 minutes.
Like a cat getting ready to fight, Dominik Farnbacher pinned his ears back as the clock wound down and informed the TRG and SpeedSource boys that neither were going to run off with the Rolex 24 pole or race.
Posting a 1:50.881 (115.853 mph), Farnbacher's No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 eclipsed Andy Lally's formerly fast lap of 1:51.169 (115.284 mph) in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3 (with Justin Marks, Pat Long, Jorg Bergmeister, RJ Valentine).
(By the way, at the same time R.J. Valentine competed in his first Rolex 24: Andy Lally was a week from turning 3 years; Bergmeister likewise was almost 2; and, the world would have to await another three years for Long and Marks' arrival.)
With a 1:51.176 (115.277 mph), Craig Stanton followed the two fastest-guys in his TRG No. 65 Porsche GT3 (John Potter, Bryce Miller, Marco Holzer, co-driving).
The three top times (take a look at 'em) are so tight that an in-car hiccup of the human kind could've been the difference between first or third.
"I can quickly name nine teams . . ." (and did just that, with drivers; no kidding) ". . . who have a legitimate shot at winning this race," TRG owner Kevin Buckler said.
"On the one hand, you'd like to come into a race with clear supremacy," the 2002 class winner and 2003 overall Rolex 24 winner said, "but I'd honestly rather have the fight - from start to finish - like this one's going to be. Everyone on every team - from pit-box strategists to the tire-changers - will have to have to be on their game to win this one."
Meanwhile, the 2008 GT champs and runners-up quietly went about their respective business at a track not known for being "Pontiac friendly."
The No. 07 Banner GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards (with Jan Magnussen doing the 24, too) along with the No. 57 Stevenson Pontiac GXP.R of Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, are priming for another championship fight. Jeff Bucknum (yep, from same gene pool as the Bucknum mentioned below) joins the team for the Rolex 24.
ONE CAN REMEMBER . . .
. . . a time in the Rolex Series' paddock when Steve Dinan didn't smile anywhere near as much as he did over the three-day Roar Before.
He is now.
Bouchut in LevelFive's 55 (hey, guys, the "5" number might've opened up) and Tomas Enge in Alegra Motorsports' Gatorade/Today MD No. 22 BMW-Riley (with Carlos de Quesada, Jean-Francois "Just Call Me JF" Dumoulin and Ryan Dalziel) each put down top-four times with Dinan power.
Evidently there's something to the idea of acquiring a Dinan BMW. Make mine a 7-Series, please.
MUCH OLDER THEN . . .
. . . When I was young.
One only wonders what Roger Penske thought his future might look like when in 1969 his dark-blue Sunoco Lola-Chevrolet Mk3B, driven by Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons (in a very late last-minute deal replacing Ronnie Bucknum) won the Rolex 24.
Or, how about when Penske finished second in a Ferrari 250 GTO to Pedro Rodriguez (in another 250 GTO) in the Rolex 24's precursor, the 1963 Daytona Continental?
Whatever, 40-years (or, 41 five-year plans) have passed since '69 and it's been pretty darn interesting to watch a one-time sportscar driver turn into one of the world's most prolific race-team owners (and more).
It's probably been a helluva ride, Mr. Penske, especially considering Romain Dumas has yet to lift in The Kink. Talk about puckering up.
NEEDLES AND PINS
Hurley Haywood insists Brumos Racing Nos. 58 and 59 Porsche-Riley team will to do all it can to stymie Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix (y Jose) Sabates' Nos. 01 and 02 Target/TELMEX cars from scoring a fourth-consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona win for the team owner.
Ganassi, though, refused to believe Haywood has employed a voodoo doll in the effort.
"Whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender," Haywood said.
"A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality," Ganassi said in reply.
(Or something like that. Well, okay, Winston Churchill provided the above quotes, substituted for Haywood's and Ganassi's four- and one-word utterances on the matter. Churchill's were far "cleaner" too.)
ANOTHER FLAT DAY
"You gotta get back onto the horse and ride again," Max Crawford said Saturday after Andy Wallace took a semi-wild journey at the point where Daytona's front stretch tri-oval dives into the infield.
What's the odds of the same thing happening again?
Evidently, pretty darn good.
After a right-rear Pirelli tire "equalized" on Saturday and caused Childress-Howard Motorsports' No. 4 Crawford-Pontiac to briefly take flight, the crew repaired the superficial damage and gave driver Andy Wallace another go. On Sunday, Wallace got virtually the same result.
Short on spare parts, the guys decided to give it another go on another day, namely on Thursday Jan. 22 in practice for the Jan. 24-25 Rolex 24.
DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsport.com